This December, I celebrated my one-year cancerversary, or the anniversary of a significant date in my breast cancer journey. For me, this was the date on which I had my last round of radiation. It was the the final stage in my year-long battle with breast cancer. But, the day was bittersweet because two days prior to my cancerversary, someone special to me ended his rounds of radiation for prostate cancer. While this is a wonderful thing, it brought me back to the feelings of sadness that I felt during my journey. For the first time in at least one year, I felt helpless about cancer, partly because I was not there for that final day, and I remembered how much I had wished someone was there for me on my final day of radiation.
Fighting cancer can be lonely
Going through cancer can be very lonely. Don't get me wrong, I had lots of people there to support me, and for that I am thankful. But, for all of the calls, texts and trips they took with me to the cancer center for treatment, they did not truly know what I was feeling. Only someone who has gone through cancer can really understand what it feels like to face the prospect of death, and hope beyond hope that the chemicals being pumped into their system and the radiation penetrating their bodily tissues will kill the cancer cells.
Only someone who has gone through cancer will understand what it feels like when they are "better" -- after they have gone through active treatment and their hair has grown back -- that they aren't always "better." I'll never forget when I resumed some of my normal activities that acquaintances began to say things like, "Well, now that you're better ... " Better according to whom? I wasn't about to sit them down and tell them how I now take a daily pill for at least five years and get a monthly injection to help prevent the recurrence of breast cancer. That, truly, was none of that person's business.
What is "normal," anyway?
As someone who has fought cancer and could not wait for it to be removed from her body, so that she could return to as normal of a life as she could (there is no true return to what things were before -- only a new normal), it is hard when life goes back to what it was, but you haven't. That means that calls and texts to see how you are do not come as frequently. People just aren't thinking of you as often as they did during your cancer battle. It's a strange thing to think about, but when people begin to realize that you will be around, things change. It's almost like they take your presence for granted. I'm sure I am guilty of this in dealing with people, and it was only until I faced my own mortality that I began to see how precious life truly is. That is when I started living. I wanted to enjoy every moment of life.
Knowing that my loved one had his final radiation treatment and I was not there made me fear that that part of me was changing back to what it had been before. That somehow I was taking for granted the beauty and triumph of the moment -- that victory of having faced one's mortality, not backing down and coming out on the other side. But, the mere fact that this troubled me is proof that I am where I should be in terms of my outlook on life. If I am that concerned about things returning to my pre-cancer "normal," then I know I will never let things return to what they were before.